17.02.2009 34 °C
"Blessed with an idyllic location, Kanchanaburi is nestled between stunningly beautiful limestone peaks and the pretty Kwai river. The peaceful atmosphere ...." Whoa! Hold on a minute. Who wrote this stuff? Not us - that's for sure. And not anyone who's recently visited the site of the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai in central Thailand. Take a look for yourself at the bridge that cost the lives of sixteen thousand allied servicemen and more than a hundred thousand Asian slaves in 1942/43.
See the bridge? It's right there behind the trashy windchimes; just to the left of the hoop-la stall; directly in front of the All-American Country & Western Lounge and Coffee Bar where the waitresses wear leather skirts and cowboy hats peppered with rhinestones - Yuk!
Still can't see the bridge? Here's a shot from the river. It's just beyond the hundreds of gaudy floating disco bars and restaurants.
No? Well here's a picture of the bridge on the wall of the massive jewellry market - featuring over 200 vendors.
From here you can elbow your way through the "T" shirt and "Kiss-me-Quick" junk stalls, then make a run past the scrummage of postcard and guidebook touts, and you will finally see this lasting monument to the futility of warfare.
Nearly a quarter of a million prisoners of the Japanese Army built the Burma Railroad, known as the Railway of Death, through the steamy jungles of Thailand and Burma. Almost half of the workers died in the process and it is said that every sleeper (tie in Canadian), cost the life of a man. Many thousands of allied servicemen lie in the war graves of Kanchanaburi. This is very sad - but sadder still is the fact that the railway has today become mired under a thick sludge of crass commercialism.
As for the peaceful idyllic location written about in our travel guide? We found it, a few miles downstream from the Bridge, on Kasen Island - a tiny retreat far from the jubilant hoards and get-rich-at any-cost merchants. On Kasen Island, under the frangipane and mango trees, where only the sweet songs of birds and the occassional splash of a jumping fish disturb the air, we found the peace and tranquility that this tragic place deserves. It is here that these young men should be remembered - and we will remember them. Here is their legacy as it should be seen.